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Your Kit Bag - The Elements of Radio

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This next piece as well as being a play also serves as an essay on radio writing.

It speaks for itself.

Commit to mind the interplay of the elements of radio drama that you have at your disposal: language, sound effects, music and silence.

The Hole in the Top of the World by Fay Weldon  with Walter Matthau as Matt

(THE SOUND OF WHISTLING ANTARCTIC WINDS.  IT DIES AS MATT SPEAKS.  MATT IS 60'ISH, EDUCATED, CHARMING, DANGEROUS, TRANSATLANTIC.  HE'S BEEN EVERYWHERE, DONE EVERYTHING.)
MATT: Did you get that, radio freaks?  That wasn't the desert winds over the High Sierra.  That was the winds whistling in Antarctica.  What you're hearing is the icy bit at the bottom of the world.  Though, as they tell you in Australia, since there's no up and down in space, it's as reasonable to call it the top as the bottom.  That way the Australians can get to be not down under but on top.  If that suits them, that's okay by me.  I'm not in the business of making anyone feel bad. All I ever wanted to do was move the world on a bit; understand the material universe.  
Why are scientists are so unpopular?  Is there something wrong with harnessing the power of the sun, curing melanoma?  You people out there are ungrateful.  I won't say stupid - you'd switch off.  And then I'd have wasted good money on this sound studio, hiring these airwaves.  I know I called you freaks, but don't take it too hard: face it, you're listening to the radio, not watching TV, and that makes you the last of the listeners; all you want is someone's voice to fill the space between your ears.  What you want is what God never gave us.  A story with a beginning, a middle and an end; a point and a purpose.  Some kind of pattern in amongst the chaos.  All I ever wanted, or worked for.  Now they're all at it.  Catastrophe Theory, Fractals.  My generation paved the way: and is anyone grateful?  No.  Listen again.
(FX.  WIND.  ADD SEAGULLS)
: That fooled you.  Seagulls signify a coast.  A coastline in Antarctica?  Well okay.
(ADD HOOTING OWLS)
Okay, make that night.  The coast of Antarctica at night.
(ADD TRAFFIC SOUNDS)
A little town at night on the coast of Antarctica.
(ADD POLICE SIRENS)
A big town at night on some cliff on Antarctica.
(FADE POLICE SIRENS.  ADD TOLLING OF CHURCH BELLS)
A churchyard?  No - here the mind boggles.  That's what I had in mind for you, the boggling of the mind.  Overload.  Even if I told you that was a high wind in Jamaica -
(LOSE CHURCH BELLS.  INTRODUCE WIND PLUS THE BANANA BOAT SONG)
- you'd still have trouble.  So forget it.  Let's have some silence.
(SILENCE.  HOLD IT)
Silence is frightening.  Nothingness.
Director and Actor: how long should you hold the silence?
Is silence so frightening?
What does this tell us about the character of Matt?

Incidentally a friend described Walter Matthau as being in his "anecdotage."   This was very true when we recorded the play in 1992.  He interrupted the read-through, about half way through his first speech, to tell us how he lost his virginity in France at the age of 26.  After that the anecdotes came thick and fast.

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We recommend the following, which can ordered from Amazon.co.uk :

We also recommend the following radio scripts: Polaris by Fay Weldon in Best Radio Plays of 1978, I Never Killed My German and Of the Levitation at St Michael's by Carey Harrison in A Suffolk Trilogy, The Village Fete by Peter Tinniswood in Best Radio Plays of 1987, Cigarettes and Chocolate by Anthony Minghella in Best Radio Plays of 1988, Death and the Tango by John Fletcher and Song of the Forest by Tina Pepler in Best Radio Plays of 1990 and In the Native State by Tom Stoppard in Best Radio Plays of 1991.  Sadly some of these scripts are out of print.  However you should be able to order them from your local library

We also recommend the recording of Lee Hall's wonderful first radio play, I Luv U Jimmy Spud.  Lee went on to write the screenplay of Billy Elliot.


The Well Tempered Audio Dramatist

We also recommend:   The Well-tempered Audio Dramatist by Yuri Rasovsky, a Guide to the Production of Audio Plays in Twenty-first Century America.  The book features chapters on every aspect of audio drama production including Project Management, Microphone Techniques, Casting and Sound Effects. You can read the entire text online at The United States National Audio Theatre Festivals..